Quest for the Jade Sea: Colonial Competition Around an East African Lake

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Westview Press, 2000 - History - 368 pages
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The last of the major African lakes to be visited by European travelers in the late nineteenth century, Lake Rudolf lies in the eastern arm of the great Rift Valley in present-day northern Kenya, near the Ethiopian border. Also known as Lake Turkana, Lake Rudolf is a large saltwater body two hundred miles long and forty miles wide. Fed by the Omo River that flows south from the Ethiopian highlands, it is surrounded by an inhospitable landscape of extinct volcanoes, wind-driven semidesert, and old lava flows. Because of the greenish hue of its waters, it has long been called the Jade Sea.Quest for the Jade Sea examines the fascinating story of colonial competition around this remote lake. Pascal James Imperato’s account yields important insights into European colonial policies in East Africa in the late nineteenth century and how these policies came into conflict with a powerful indigenous and independent African state, Ethiopia, which itself was engaged in imperial expansion.Although the chief competitors for the lake included the British, Italians, the French, Russians, and Ethiopians, its colonial fate was decided by Great Britain and Ethiopia. The role of Ethiopia as a late nineteenth-century colonial power unfolds as Imperato provides unique insights and analyses of Ethiopian colonial policy and its effects on the peoples who inhabited the region of the lake.As well as examining the political and diplomatic aspects of colonial competition for Lake Rudolf, Quest for the Jade Sea focuses on the expeditions that traveled there. Many of these were the field expressions of colonial policy; others were undertaken in the interest of scientific and geographical discovery. Whatever the impetus, their success required courage and much suffering on the part of those who led them. Whether as willing agents of larger colonial designs, soldiers intent on promoting their military careers, or explorers who wished to advance scientific knowledge, expedition leaders left behind not only fascinating chronicles of their experiences and discoveries but also parts of the larger story of colonial competition around an East African lake.

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Quest for the Jade Sea: colonial competition around an East African lake

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Lake Turkana (or Rudolph), a body of water some 200 miles long and 14 miles across in northern Kenya, has held a special appeal for a small group of foreigners willing and able to visit the area ... Read full review


Introduction i
The Sources of the Nile
A Whispered Reality
A Race Across Maasai Land
Visitors from Vienna
An American Approaches from the South
An American Arrives from the North
Sportsmen and Ivory Hunters
A Courageous Young Soldier
Doctor Smith Returns
Replacing the Union Jacks
A Lakeside Tragedy
Dividing the Spoils

Italians at the Source
Showdown on the Upper Nile
An Orthodox Partnership

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Page 14 - I no longer felt any doubt that the lake at my feet gave birth to that interesting river, the source of which has been the subject of so much speculation, and the object of so many explorers.
Page 16 - Africans, whose languages he ignored, he was unfit for any other but a subordinate capacity. Can I then feel otherwise than indignant, when I find that, after preceding me from Aden to England, with the spontaneous offer, on his part, of not appearing before the society that originated the expedition until my return, he had lost no time in taking measures to secure for himself the right of working the field which I had opened, and that from that day he has placed himself en evidence as the primum...
Page 239 - He was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1882, and two years later was knighted'.
Page 51 - The territory to which this arrangement applies is bounded on the south by the Rovuma River, and on the north by a line which, starting from the mouth of the Tana River, follows the course of that river or its affluents to the point of intersection of the Equator and the 38th degree of the 1st degree of north latitude with the 37th degree of east longitude, where the line terminates.
Page 70 - We hurried as fast as we could to the top of our ridge, the scene gradually developing itself as we advanced, until an entirely new world was spread out before our astonished eyes. The void down in the depths beneath became filled as if by magic with picturesque mountains and rugged slopes, with a medley of ravines and valleys, which appeared to be closing up from every side to form a fitting frame for the dark-blue gleaming surface of the lake stretching away beyond as far as the eye could reach.
Page 12 - Caspian, which, from the information of divers " natives," he had deposited in slug or leech shape in the heart of intertropical Africa, thus prolonging the old Maravi or Moravian lake of Portuguese travelers and school atlases, to the north of the equator, and thus bringing a second deluge upon sundry provinces and kingdoms thoroughly well known for the last half century.
Page 70 - ... melted on the horizon into the blue of the sky. At that moment all our dangers, all our fatigues were forgotten in the joy of finding our exploring expedition crowned with success at last. Full of enthusiasm and gratefully remembering the gracious interest taken in our plans from the first by his Royal and Imperial Highness, Prince Rudolf of Austria, Count Teleki named the sheet of water, set like a pearl of great price in the wonderful landscape beneath us, Lake Rudolf.
Page 31 - I now engaged, after a series of extremely slippery negotiations, at $15 a month. To do him credit, however, it should be stated that he had a commanding and venerable presence, a not unimportant qualification in the Masai country, and that without exception he had the most thorough knowledge of the Masai language of any man on the coast.

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About the author (2000)

Pascal James Imperato is Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center.

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